Hello, ESPers worldwide!
In this ESP project leader profile, we meet Dr. Gina Mikel Petrie from Eastern Washington University, and she shares with us her ESP work in Nicaragua. I was introduced to Gina by another ESP project leader, Mike Ennis, who is located in Italy. The world is indeed a small place when our friends and colleagues are not only living next to us but also living halfway around the world away from us! Please read Gina’s bio:
Gina Mikel Petrie, PhD, is an associate professor of English as a Second Language at Eastern Washington University and coordinates and teaches in the ESL Bachelor’s and TESOL Certificate programs, which in part prepare pre-service teachers to teach ESP. Since 2012 she has carried out research and provided professional development to teachers in Nicaragua, many of whom teach English for Tourism and Hospitality. She will complete her first English Language Specialist assignment in July 2018 at Ammon Technical College, Jordan, carrying out needs analyses and workshops related to ESP and CLIL in the English Department.
In her responses to the interview questions, she shows us how she moved instructors from general English to ESP in Nicaragua. (By the way, making the transition from general English to ESP is a theme that will be explored in the next edition of ESP News, the newsletter of the TESOL ESP Interest Section.)
Gina Mikel Petrie
Associate Professor of English as a Second Language
Eastern Washington University
Define leadership in your own words.
I think a key to good leadership in any context is active listening—true active listening—being able to hear what the other person is truly saying and not letting your own thoughts interrupt that process. A leader needs to act, which means they need to make some choices, and the more those choices have been filtered through the perspectives of the stakeholders, the more likely they are going to be effective. I believe that we often walk away from an interaction thinking that we have understood the other person when we are only really walking away with what we expected to hear. So, in short, I think active listening is key to leadership.
Tell me an ESP project success story. Focus on your communication as a leader in the project. How did you communicate with stakeholders to make that project successful?
This does not begin like an ESP project story, but it ends as one.
Over the last six years I have supported the English program at a small private technical school in Cárdenas, Nicaragua. I carry out professional development and curriculum advising.
When I first began working with La Escuela San Miguel, the school provided general English classes that were attended by high school students and adults in the village area. The program provided six levels which could take students up to the intermediate level. In 2014, for the first time, a group of students was about to exit the current program, and they wished to continue learning English. I was asked to design what the next six levels of the program should look like so they could do so.
Through many conversations with the students, the school director, and the teachers, it became clear that English for most of the students was directly related to tourism—either their work had been reshaped by needing to speak occasionally with visiting tourists or they hoped to get a local job in the area in tourism. Thus, I moved in the direction of an ESP focus on English for Tourism for the next six levels. This decision made sense to us all, and I got to work designing the curriculum.
Of course, this meant a shift in pedagogy as well for the school, at least in those next six levels–to refocus the learning on skills that the students could connect with their real everyday communications with tourists. As with many programs moving from general English teaching to ESP, this meant a change from focusing on grammar lectures, reading general subject texts, completing grammar exercises, and occasional written assessments to a focus on functional language in context, “just enough” grammar, role-play activities, and constant formative assessment. It was with pedagogy that we hit a bit of a wall. The teachers indicated that they wished to make the change, but my visits to their classes showed evidence that they were relying on their previous pedagogies.
This is where the story turns, because this is where I really started listening to what the teachers were saying. I began to ask different questions: about what grammar lectures meant to them, about how they felt when they carried out role-plays in their classrooms, and about what “English teaching” looked like to them. In other words, I began to listen to teachers’ affective experiences, which shape our instructional choices far more than we may wish they did. Once I began responding to this other kind of information, we began to move pedagogical practices in a different direction. We were all taking a leap of faith together.
I read Gina’s profile with interest because it focused on listening to the “teachers’ affective experiences,” and in June, I participated in a webinar hosted by the Research Institute for Learner Autonomy Education (RILAE) at Kanda University of International Studies (KUIS) in Japan:
Affect and Learner Autonomy
3.30 pm to 5.30 pm (Tokyo time)
In our second Lab session, we explored the role of affective factors in the development of learner autonomy. By affect, we mean the motivational and emotional factors that influence success in language learning. Questions we considered were: What is the relationship between affect and learning? What tools and strategies can language learners draw upon to achieve a greater sense of awareness and control over their emotions? and how can research in other fields influence research in applied linguistics? Through a series of short presentations, we shared ideas and engaged in discussion about this important aspect of the learning process.
The slide and recordings are available online. (You will need to scroll down the page). Gina’s interactions with teachers reflected my presentation insofar as listening and leadership are concerned. It also brought to mind Maynard’s perspective-display sequence and the relevance of active listening in that connection.
Do you have questions or comments for Gina? Please feel free to contact her directly!
All the best,